Flu vaccine poses no risk to unborn
January 16th, 2013
05:01 PM ET

Flu vaccine poses no risk to unborn

Fears and misconceptions often surround the flu vaccine: Does it really work? Will it make me sick? Could it hurt my baby?

Researchers from Norway say the last question was a big concern during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic; anecdotal reports of fetal deaths caused many pregnant women to avoid getting vaccinated despite health officials’ pleas.

To determine the accuracy of these reports, the Norwegian researchers analyzed data from more than 100,000 pregnancies during the 2009-2010 flu season. Their results were published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The study found no evidence that the influenza vaccine increased the risk of fetal death in pregnant women. But pregnant women who were diagnosed with the flu - whether they had the vaccine or not - had nearly double the risk of fetal death.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends all pregnant women get the flu shot (the nasal spray vaccine is not recommended for pregnant women) to protect them from the virus. But during the 2011-2012 flu season, only 47% opted to get vaccinated, according to the CDC.

Pregnant mothers are just trying to do what’s right, says Dr. Siobhan Dolan, co-author of March of Dimes’ new book “Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby.” Their fear often stems from the unknown, she says, which is why studies like the one publishing this week are important.

“At this point we have mounting evidence - data and studies - that show it’s not getting the shot that causes the problem, but getting the flu that’s the problem," Dolan says.

Even if you are healthy, changes to your immune system during pregnancy make you more likely to get seriously ill, Dolan says. Pregnant women are more likely to end up in the hospital after an influenza diagnosis, according to the CDC.

Respiratory issues can also pose a danger. If a mother is having difficulty breathing, her baby isn’t receiving enough oxygen. If you do get the flu, Dolan recommends asking your doctor about anti-viral medications that may help.

The CDC says it’s not too late to get the flu shot. The U.S. flu season runs from October to May. Antibodies from the shot will protect you and will be passed on to your baby, providing protection until 6 months of age.

For more information on vaccines, check out www.immunizationforwomen.org.

soundoff (381 Responses)
  1. Richard

    Fear of vaccines (as opposed to what would happen if people stopped taking them) comes from the Jenny McCarthy school of medicine. Visit a cemetery with graves before the 1900's and look at all the graves of children. That was before vaccinations.

    January 16, 2013 at 21:37 | Report abuse | Reply
    • adh1729

      You should read Robert Mendelsohn MD (who wrote Confessions of a Medical Heretic among other works). Also read Russell Blaylock MD on vaccines. I am a practicing surgeon in the US, was valedictorian of my medical school class among other academic honors. When I read the works of these men, I was shocked at all the risks and downsides of vaccines that were not covered in medical school.
      You need to stop blaming Jenny McCarthy for everything. I have serious concerns about vaccines, not from Jenny, but from the peer-reviewed medical literature. As a result of reading the findings of numerous scientific studies, I have quit vaccinating my children and have also completely lost faith in the honesty of the government and of the power group that runs the US. (All sorts of autoimmune disease is associated with vaccination, and so is sudden infant death).
      Prove that vaccines stopped childhood death, and that it was not improved nutrition, improved sanitation, or a host of other factors. People back then were dying of typhoid, dysentery, TB, food poisoning, scarlet fever, erysipelas, and similar diseases for which there has never been an effective vaccine used in the US.
      You should know that many of the diseases that we vaccinate against, were never deadly. Measles in the 1950s reportedly had a rate of serious complications of about 1/100,000, in well-fed, previously healthy children. I personally had chickenpox and mumps in the 70s. Everybody had chickenpox back then; it was regarded as a trivial illness. Yes mumps causes sterility in adolescent males sometimes, and rubella can cause birth defects; then why not let young children get these illnesses, with lifelong immunity resulting, reserving vaccination for the few who don't get the real disease in the necessary time window.
      We give hep B vaccines to newborns, who don't shoot iv drugs or have promiscuous relations with hook-ers. Giving hep B vaccine to a newborn, is absurdity.
      Medicine does not know how vaccination will impact the human body; the scientists are tossing monkey wrenches into the machinery and who knows how the wrench will bounce around. The vaccination program has never been proven safe. The persistent refusal to undertake the necessary studies, along with the demonization and ridicule of critics, makes a lot of people, me included, suspect that the establishment has underhanded designs. They have already used vaccination against HCG as a form of population control in the 3rd world.

      January 17, 2013 at 00:12 | Report abuse |
    • chris

      Our city is seeing more flu cases this year then in the 3 years past combined. During this time, 65% of those affected by the flu have received the vaccine. I have never read the report from the Jenny McCarthy school of medicine. to be honest, I have never heard of that. My thoughts on the flu vaccine come straight from just looking around and common sense.

      January 17, 2013 at 01:13 | Report abuse |
    • SixDegrees

      Quite true. Because our society puts more faith in the addled opinions of a washed-up pole dancer than in the results of carefully researched science.

      January 17, 2013 at 02:54 | Report abuse |
    • adh1729

      "SixDegrees: Quite true. Because our society puts more faith in the addled opinions of a washed-up pole dancer than in the results of carefully researched science."

      Carefully-researched science has found massive amounts of problems with vaccines. They have been incriminated in all sorts of scientific studies published in the peer-reviewed medical literature. Quit talking about straw-woman Jenny.

      January 17, 2013 at 09:50 | Report abuse |
    • I call BS

      Nonsense. Vaccines saved and continue to save millions of lives. To say that better living standards or other factors should be credited with the end of polio and other diseases that killed millions is pure, unadulterated bunk.

      And you are not a surgeon.

      January 17, 2013 at 21:05 | Report abuse |
    • Mitch

      @adh1729, Russell Blaylock is known throughout the medical community as being an unreliable source who consistently spouts off unfounded and disproven claims. Robert Mendelsohn was pretty much the same way, except that he died nearly 25 years ago and is pretty much irrelevant these days. I'm quite certain that if you were a competent physician who "was valedictorian of my medical school class among other academic honors", you would not be promoting such dangerous quackery. If you're so adamant about your beliefs, then I only assume you'd be willing to state your name and specialty for all to see.

      January 23, 2013 at 03:05 | Report abuse |
  2. beth specht

    Any claim that a vaccination will absolutely not harm a fetus, cause autism, or other developmental delays, is a statement that concerns me. There are NO absolutes. Anyone so sure of any outcome is either reckless or insane.

    January 16, 2013 at 23:04 | Report abuse | Reply
    • SixDegrees

      OK. So there's absolutely no discernible evidence whatsoever of such harm being caused by vaccines. Happy now? That's simply a statement of fact.

      January 17, 2013 at 02:56 | Report abuse |
    • Hiya

      According to your logic there is no absolute guarantee that you will not get HIV from browsing the internet. Don't be silly.

      January 17, 2013 at 03:39 | Report abuse |
    • bhagler

      You are right, you cannot speak in absolutes. However, when the study that the autism/vaccination argument is based off of has been retracted due to multiple design flaws,you might as well say that vaccines will cause you to sprout a tail and dance the jig because it has the same scientific backing at this point.

      January 17, 2013 at 06:46 | Report abuse |
    • JayneQP

      Hiya: just so we're even in sarcasm... should an HIV+ person leave blood on a publicly used key board (your IT guy who fixes your computer, paper-cut, IV drug user at the library, etc...) ... sure there's a chance. Slim, but a chance. There are no absolutes. If it is to be, it will be.

      January 17, 2013 at 08:01 | Report abuse |
  3. Tired of incomplete info

    Immune system activation in pregnant mothers can cause permanent developmental delay in offspring per animal and human studies. The flu or simply a vaccine activates the immune system. Getting flu in pregnancy is linked to schizophrenia and autism later on.

    Looking only at early postnatal death conceals these other very real potential costs., ie it won't kill your baby is MUCH different from it won't harm your baby. Researchers: Do some research beyond two years of babyhood please!! Determine the long term impact if any of flu vaccine on pregnant women. We know flu is dangerous in pregnant women. But we need to know if there are long term consequences for babies to the vaccine. Not because of mercury etc, but because the vaccine activates the same immune pathways as flu and in animal studies it's the mothers immune response that caused damage, not the flu/virus. Therefore flu or the vaccine might cause the developmental problems routinely observed in animals.

    The sad truth is that researchers don't know nearly as much as we think they do.

    Ladies, try to get a flu shot before pregnancy that year, not during. If you can.

    January 17, 2013 at 00:07 | Report abuse | Reply
    • matt

      You do realize that everything activates the immune system, right? Breathing in (unless you are in a completely sterile environment like outer space) activates the immune system FAR more than vaccination. Vaccination is a few antigens. Day to day life is many multiples of that.

      January 17, 2013 at 08:44 | Report abuse |
  4. MashaSobaka

    You know what can hurt your baby? You getting incredibly sick during pregnancy. You know what that can result in? A miscarriage.

    January 17, 2013 at 00:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. shawn poland

    here in maine, the big hospital in portland has its beds full of people sick wit the flu, the majority of which had their flu shots, but the strain alot are sick with is the h1n1 strain that has been circulating around maine since people were vaccinated for it during the medias boogie man hype! did the local media report this? no! it came from a relative who works at the hospital! one local maine newspaper has told 3 different stories about the strain and type and in the last 2 weeks. the only part of the 3 different stories was run out and get your flu shot! pffft when hell freezes over! as adh1729 says above, good nutrition is the key to fighting off any illness.

    January 17, 2013 at 02:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • VladT

      I am glad you know that "most" have been vaccinated. Does your relative provide you with the data, or would that be an extreme HIPAA violation? Good effort though, on your baselss anti-vaccine campaing. And before the asinine statement comes out, no, I do not work for "Big Pharma."

      But sheesh, I must be swallowing on all of their lies....

      January 17, 2013 at 08:48 | Report abuse |
  6. Mark

    If you don't vaccinate your family, you are inviting disease and death into your house. In this day an age, you would have to be completely ignorant to not realize the benefits far outweigh any possible risks.

    Not getting vaccinated is like not eating because you fear choking on food.

    January 17, 2013 at 03:16 | Report abuse | Reply
    • JayneQP

      Honestly, that kind of blind faith in the medical community is irresponsible. I had a doctor diagnose me with something completely unheard-of in adults simply because he wanted to be "1-in-a-million" and get some kind of recognition for successful treatment. On the other hand, I have had a doctor who listened to everything I said, took an environmental and dietary approach to treatment before ever prescribing medication or surgical procedures, and who... having fully vaccinated her first child and then throwing her hands up with vaccinations by her third child (she's a pediatrician) ... discouraged me from shooting my infant up with 24 vaccinations (the standard) in his first year of life. Is my experience unique? I doubt it. There are too many others that I know who have had similar experiences.

      January 17, 2013 at 07:56 | Report abuse |
    • VladT

      At JayneQ.....can I give an anecdotal story about how vaccines have saved lives, and actually facts and data, and then convince you? If not, what hope with just us believing your story about how your "pediatrician with kids of her own" says vaccines don't work.

      Good effort though

      January 17, 2013 at 08:46 | Report abuse |
  7. Mr. Augie

    No effect on the fetus? Untrue. MIT scientists two months ago studied CDCs own data and found 4200% more miscarriages after the H1N1 flu shot (42x) than ever reported. This is consistent with another study that indicated an additional 2000 or so miscarriages above what would be expected were experienced with the same flu shot. Flu shots are not nearly as effective as the 60% we are being led to believe. See Pregancy, Flu Shots and Autism at http://journal.livingfood.us
    What is even more concerning is what types of diseases and disorders are experienced from those babies that survive the moms flu shot?

    January 17, 2013 at 04:29 | Report abuse | Reply
    • matt

      Don't confuse correlation with causation.
      When you have two things that are very common (Flu vaccination and miscarriage) just because you can spout off that there are lots of miscarriages among those who get the vaccine means essentially nothing. Because of the reports, there was a study done, hence the entire purpose of this article!

      The other "problem" is that most of the stuff people call "the flu" is not actually the flu. Thus, people will say all the time that they got the vaccine and then still got the flu, when it actually wasn't the flu at all.

      January 17, 2013 at 08:47 | Report abuse |
    • adh1729

      matt "Don't confuse correlation with causation." Don't confuse your ability to quote this tired mantra with anything. It doesn't correlate with you knowing anything, or cause you to know anything. Gunshot wound is correlated with death, but I suppose a true believer like you would deny that the bullet was the cause of death.

      All sorts of correlations are indeed indicative of a causal relationship, or of a concerning phenomenon requiring further study. Dismissing them in the manner that you do, is foolish.

      There are massive amounts of scientific data regarding serious side effects and death resulting from vaccines, along with countless parents who know that their child was normal before the shot and was never the same again after the shot. But go ahead and stick your head in the sand as you quote your hackneyed mantra.

      January 17, 2013 at 09:46 | Report abuse |
    • Mr. Augie

      Matt, how many of those that died of the flu complications were vaccinated? They don't normally report that

      January 17, 2013 at 16:37 | Report abuse |
  8. VladT

    I have no medical knowledge whatsoever beyond what an herbalist wrote called "How Big Pharma is using the flu to make you sterile and turn your brain into a flavor of pudding," but I have a friend's uncle's sister who was pregnant, and once she got the vaccine, gave birth to a two headed baby that actually coughed up the flu for the rest of his and her life ( each head was a different gender ).
    Sure, you big Pharmas have your data, and your so called facts, but hey, we people who follow Wakefield and Jenny Mccarthy know the real story. Sure, we will die of measles resurgences and smallpox before we let those quacks inject us with their mercury, cyanide, floor tar, and green kryptonite

    January 17, 2013 at 09:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. dcpsuelip

    Dr. Will Sawyer and the Henry the Hand Foundation teach people about primary infection prevention and can help your organization/hospital to decrease the incidence of HAIs by following the 4 Principles of Hand Awareness. To learn more on how to decrease the level of infectious disease visit his website http://www.henrythehand.com

    January 18, 2013 at 00:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Samuel Thompson

    Thank you for this post, particularly in light of what has proven to be a very severe influenza season so far and the rampant misinformation regarding the flu vaccine. Regardless of whether you choose to get a flu vaccination or not, there are a number of steps one can take in order to better protect themselves from coming down from the flu, as outlined at http://www.healthedeals.com/blog/preparing-for-the-2012-2013-flu-season If nothing else, people should be sure to follow these basic recommendation to help combat the spread of influenza.

    January 21, 2013 at 11:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Nnuola

    Funny, very recently the Guardian Newspaper, one of UK's main dailies polled medical doctors to find out what treatment they would avoid. Guess what – the flu jab came up quite high on the list!

    You can read more on this here – http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2013/jan/19/what-doctors-wont-do

    Nnuola at blog.saintandsmith.com

    January 21, 2013 at 22:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. robertapate

    ....and what else did you expect "CNN" to print?

    January 22, 2013 at 18:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Renee E

    In the journal Vaccine in 2011: Inflammatory Responses to Trivalent Influenza Virus Vaccine Among Pregnant Women-
    Trivalent influenza virus vaccination elicits a measurable inflammatory response among pregnant women. Significant increases in CRP were seen at one and two days post-vaccination.
    Jan. 24, 2013: Prenatal inflammation linked to autism risk:
    The risk of autism among children in the study was increased by 43 percent among mothers with CRP levels in the top 20th percentile, and by 80 percent for maternal CRP in the top 10th percentile.
    The findings appear in the journal Molecular Psychiatry and add to mounting evidence that an overactive immune response can alter the development of the central nervous system in the fetus.

    http://www.niehs.nih.gov/news/newsroom/releases/2013/january24/index.cfm and http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3204610/

    January 31, 2013 at 17:02 | Report abuse | Reply
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